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When poultry waste turns lethal poison

Fear of an epidemic looms around Agric Bus stop, by Ojo Military Barracks, along the Lagos-Badagry Expressway.

Daily, air over the area is heavily saturated with a pungent odour that emanates from the Aiyedoto Poultry Estate, in Ojo Local Government Area of Lagos.

The farm settlement, which sits on several acres of land is home to many poultry farms and is managed by the Lagos State Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives.

It is not only the nauseous smell that calls for concern, but the tonnes of poultry waste generated daily that now flow into streets and homes.

This has pitted the management of the poultry against residents of the area. They accuse the poultry operators of polluting the environment and exposing them to diseases by not properly managing their bird litters.

The residents lament that they are dying in instalment, adding that some of them have developed skin infections and respiratory ailments, due to exposure to dangerous toxins.

They claim the water in the area has been contaminated and fear the possibility of a disease outbreak.

Initially, the spokesperson for the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperative, Olajide Lawal, refused to comment, claiming that the matter fell under the purview of the Lagos State Environmental Protection Agency. He also claimed not to be aware of any environmental issue in the area.

When our correspondent insisted that there was evidence to prove that the poultry was polluting the environment, Lawal then said the state government was working towards improving waste management at the poultry.

WHO’s stand

The World Health Organisation says over 3.5 million people die annually from water-related diseases. It notes that 43 per cent die from diarrhoea, while 84 per cent of the casualty figure involves children between the ages of 0-14.

According to the WHO, an alarming 98 per cent of water-related deaths occur in developing countries, like Nigeria.

A study by researchers from the Institute of Ecology and Environmental Studies and Department of Zoology, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, notes that poultry operators use a variety of heavy metals as additives in chicken feed.

It warns that excretion, runoff and dumping of heavy metals threaten water bodies and have adverse effects on human health.

“The main environmental and health risks associated with animal wastes are the introduction of pollutants such as nutrients (including nitrogen and phosphorus), organic matter, sediments, pathogens (including bacteria and viruses),” the study states.

Choking stench

When Healthwise visited the area, windows were shut and everyone, from commercial bike riders to traders, motorists and pedestrians wore face masks.

The stench was overwhelmingly discomforting and distressing that our correspondent had to hold her breath at intervals.

A tour of streets behind the Aiyedoto Poultry Farm reveals large deposits of smelly poultry sludge.

“Life has been hard here. I don’t know how my family has survived this horrible smell for years.

“We have not opened our windows for over two years now,” says Fatima Suleiman Bukky, a resident of Habeeb Street.

“Two weeks ago, we could barely step out of our homes because the poultry waste took over the whole place.

“We paid N20, 000, for a truckload of sand to be poured on it, so we could access our homes.”

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